Death of Persistent Jim Broomhall

Dan Graves, MSL

When Jim Broomhall was nineteen, he read a book about the Yi (also called Nosu), a mysterious mountain people of China's Szechwan province. Intrigued, he made up his mind to tell them about Jesus. In preparation, he became a medical doctor.

Jim joined the China Inland Mission, which had been founded by his great-uncle Hudson Taylor; and he arrived in Szechwan in 1938. Because Japan had invaded China, he was unable to reach the Yi of the Liangshan mountains at that time. Instead, he worked at a mission hospital and married Theodora Janet Churchill. Not until 1943 were he and his wife able to work among the Yi. They traveled among them giving medical aid and making friends. But a Japanese advance forced them to leave again, still not having reached Jim's target--the Liangshan mountains.

Although thwarted, Jim told everyone "I want to go to Liangshan to make friends, for there are my Yi brothers whom I love and wish to serve." Finally in 1947, he got his wish, traveling the thousand miles from Lanzhou to Liangshan.

Jim rode a mule along the river banks, treating patients and inviting them to a clinic that he had established. On one occasion he removed a young man's festering arm (it had been damaged in a dynamite explosion) and replaced it with an artificial limb, much to the joy of the boy's family. One Summer he rode his mule up into remote mountain villages, tending the sick.

The Yi were appalled when Jim took in a leper. The two shared a room and ate the same food. The villagers were so outraged that the leper would endanger Jim this way that they wanted to kill him, but his condition improved, although the irreversible damage could not be undone.

Without even the aid of an x-ray machine, Jim performed two operations on a girl with a crippling bone disease and gave her a new life. Multiply these instances by hundreds and you can see why the Yi came to love their missionary doctor.

In 1951, many Yi came to say goodbye to Jim, his wife and their four daughters. The Communists, after placing his family under house arrest, had ordered them to leave the country. Jim shifted his focus to the Philippines. In 1988, although in ill health, he obtained permission to visit the Yi again. He left in tears, declaring he wanted to return again in two years. In 1991, he did return. By then he was deaf and paralyzed along one side of his body, but people ran to tell each other that Dr. Broomhall was back. A woman knelt before him with a ring, given to her by her mother. "You healed my mother. When she was dying, she gave me her ring and said I must give it to you."

"The people of Liangshan have been such a support and help to me," he said. "I will never forget their friendship." Knowing he could never return again, the teary-eyed doctor picked up a clod of earth to take home with him. Three years later Jim died on this day, May 11, 1994. He was 83. His work lives on in the Christian lives he left behind and in the several books he wrote about the Yi.


  1. Mundus, Gateway to Missionary Collections in the United Kingdom. "Anthony James Broomhall (Jim)."
  2. OMF International. Pray for China Fellowship, Newsletter, September, 1994. Translated from the book Christianity in Sichuan Banshu Bookshop, Chengdu, 1992.

Last updated July, 2007